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As seen on Animal Planet ! A safari in East Africa

Safari: Ngorongoro lion

Have you ever thought that everything that is seen on TV on Animal Planet is not only the priviledge of some “elected” people who are lucky enough to work for the major television networks … In fact, it’s very simple to become an Animal Planet expert … take the plane to Nairobi or the Kilimanjaro International Airport and from there the jeep or the van of the safari operators and, within hours, you can be face to face with His Majesty the Lion!

In Africa, there are two main safari areas – some are concentrated in the South (South Africa, Namibia and Botswana), others in East Africa (Kenya and Tanzania). In all these countries there are national parks and special facilities for tourists. As I have only visited East Africa national parks, in the next lines, I will focus on East Africa – Kenya and Tanzania. There are various packaged deals – the most popular ones are the “camping safari” – the cheapest ones in which accommodation takes place in tents erected in specially designated campsites or “safari lodge” where accommodation is provided in hotels with all facilities, real four or five-star oases in the middle of the savannah. There is only one thing missing from these lodges – the TV set … but honestly I never felt I missed it.

I was in the animal kingdom for about two weeks, in various national parks. Some have asked if that was not too much, if I had not got bored … I honestly did not. And this is because each national park has its own identity, well defined and different from one park to another.

From Nairobi, I left towards Masai Mara, the largest national park in Kenya. Unfortunately, access is difficult, the road linking the Kenyan capital to the park being extremely rugged. I cannot say the same about the neighboring Tanzania which has an excellent network of roads. Obviously, you cannot have paved roads in the national park, it would destroy the wild beauty of the place, but I might have liked roads in somewhat civilized conditions to the gate of the national parks in Kenya.

Masai Mara is the national park “par excellence” – wide plains, baobabs from time to time and many animals. From the easy-to-scare zebras to curious giraffes, several species of monkeys up to the Lion-King. The river that crosses the Masai Mara, is full of hippos and crocodiles and here you can witness the famous scene of the water crossing by millions of gnu antelopes migrating every season from Serengeti to Masai Mara and back. When we arrived, thousands, maybe tens of thousands of gnus stood ready to cross, but were watching the waters full of hungry crocodiles with concern … I also found a family of cheetahs who were out for their morning walk, but, perhaps, the highlight of our journey through Masai Mara was the balloon ride. The flight takes place at sunrise and quite a few miles of the reservation are crossed. It is fascinating to see this eco-system from high up, especially since animals do not steer clear from the monsters of air … they have never been attacked from the sky. Captivated by the scenery or maybe by one of his female passengers, our balloon captain ball, a nice English chap, realized quite late that he had to come down, so we were in the risk of descending into Tanzania … we probably would not have had any problems, but our captain, would surely have had … so, we had a fairly steep descent and an emergency landing a few tens of meters away from the Tanzanian border … cars came immediately after us and took us to a well-deserved breakfast in the savannah…

Next park – Nakuru National Park. Number one attraction in Nakuru are the flamingos… hundreds of thousands of flamingos “colour” the lake into pink and, if you look from the hills around, you have the feeling that much of the lake is pink and not blue. If you approach, the birds will shyly move away, but you will be close to thousands of gorgeous flamingos. That does not mean that we have not met, in the same area, a gang of pretty well-fed lions, a rather pissed rhino and much too playful monkeys. Not far from Nakuru there is the Naivasha park… if, in most of the national parks, visitors are not allowed to walk for security reasons, here you can walk or go by bike – there are no dangerous carnivores, but only zebras , antelopes and other herbivores … also here you can visit the valley where Angelina Jolie filmed “Lara Croft Tomb Raider – Cradle of Life” in the Hell’s Gate park … it is a pleasant drive or better do biking among giraffes and zebras. Another special treat was the walk on Lake Naivasha towards an island inhabited only by herbivores… perhaps also because of the  adrenaline created by dozens of hippos swimming in the water not very far from us … and one must not forget that, although hippos are not carnivorous, they are the biggest killers of people in Africa … when they get angry.

Crossing Nairobi again, to the other side of the country, towards the coast, the next stop was Amboseli Park … We cannot meet the grassy savannahs of the west here, the land is less fertile, a little desert-like, but Amboseli houses the largest population of elephants in Kenya … and, last but not least, two steps away from the park, but in the neighbouring Tanzania, we can find the majestic volcano Kilimanjaro, which, at its nearly 6000 metres in height, is the tallest peak in Africa. Kili, as it is nicknamed, is still a cause for strife between Kenya and Tanzania… Between the two countries (inhabited, actually, by the same peoples) they have drawn a right-colonial border between the United Kingdom (which colonized Kenya) and Germany (which had occupied Tanganyika). Normally, Kili would have “fallen” in Kenya, but, at a certain time, Queen Victoria of Great Britain offered this mountain as ​​a gift to Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany, in an act of kindness … and this is how Kilimanjaro went to Tanzania… After the independence, Kenya continued to claim that the great peak belongs to it, in fact, in very many cities, you’ll find the Uhuru Boulevard (the name of Kili’s peak) and the Kenyan tourist brochures are full of pictures of Kilimanjaro … But the mountain continues to be in Tanzania, and the Tanzanians are opposed to opening a border crossing point between Amboseli and Kilimanjaro for all tourists to have to climb from Tanzania…

And, as we were speaking of Tanzania anyway, we passed in this state, too, after Amboseli. Although, as I wrote before, Kenya and Tanzania are inhabited by the same people, colonial division led to a different development. Kenya was capitalist during the Cold War, while Tanzania came closer to the Eastern block, moving to socialism. Consequently, Kenya has been, over the decades from 60 to 80, the main safari tourist attraction in East Africa safari. The fall of the socialist regime in Tanzania and the openness to the world has led to a fairly large number of tourists in Tanzania, as well… And they have plenty of reasons why – the country is much safer than Kenya (the Kenyan capital Nairobi is rightfully nicknamed Nairobberry – we went have dinner at a restaurant located 200 meters from the hotel by taxi!), the roads are impeccable unlike the moon-like craters on Kenyan highways, and the luxurious conditions in the lodges are impeccable.

The largest national park, the Serengeti, is, actually, next to Masai Mara – it’s just that it is in Tanzania. Actually, what you can find in the Masai Mara, you can also find in Serengeti, the same scenery, the same animals and top conditions… what could be more beautiful than to enjoy a sunrise over the savannah full of animals from a pool, savouring a cocktail! Another attraction point is the famous Ngorongoro crater … the Great Rift is a volcanic area … Mount Kilimanjaro is nothing more than a volcano. Do not worry, these volcanoes are extinct, but the Ngorongoro crater has the largest concentration of wildlife in the world … and the crater trip was incredible … along with dozens of jeeps, I witnessed to hunting initiated by a group of lions circling a large herd of wildebeest antelopes… the main advantage of the lions is that they can hide in the tall grass of the savannah. But if the gnu have been there, this grass was mowed to the root, so the lions are hiding wherever they can before they start the attack … and when there are so many cars around the area, they have absolutely no reluctance to walk among the tens of cars, to the delight of the tourists. And, after that spectacular hunting, it almost does not matter anymore that you’ve seen tens of other animals…

And since I was near Kilimanjaro, I could not help from visiting its hem … an inspirational visit for some of us who, six months later, were going  to return in order to conquer the Uhuru Peak …

How to get to Kenya and Tanzania

It’s relatively expensive to go to Africa. Beware of the offers of the major airlines such as KLM or British Airways, but do not neglect the offers of a Condor or a Thomas Cook, either. In the area, bet on Kenyan Airways, a really good company and on their Tanzanian subsidiary, Precision Air. There are 2 major airports which serve the safari areas – Nairobi in Kenya and Kilimanjaro International Airport in Tanzania. It is possible to find better fares to Nairobi, but do not neglect also the KIA option (served by KLM and Qatar Airways)

The Kenya and Tanzania Visa

Both the Kenyan and Tanzanian visa is obtained at the airport in exchange for $ 50. What is funny, Romanians are some of the few nationals who do not need visa for Tanzania due to an old agreement signed by Ceausescu… so I saved 50 dolars J.

Accommodation in a safari

In Nairobi, it’s good to stay at a better hotel in the central area and not venture out after dark. The lodges in the national parks are extremely nice, clean and many are downright luxurious.

Safari

There are two styles to have a safari – “camping safari” and “safari lodge”. For camping, there are some special areas where you can camp out, and, in the case of lodge sites, most are very luxurious. Buy tours from local agencies after you have checked them on the Internet. Personally, I went by African Bush Excursions  and it was ok – $ 2,000 for 14 days in Kenya and Tanzania – transportation, national park fees, accommodation luxury lodge sites. Note, this was a price for a group of 8 persons and it was back in 2006, so prices might have increased since.

Food

Do not worry, the food for tourists is super good and plentiful … Everything for all tastes …

 Safari images – Kenya and Tanzania

Safari: Amboseli

Amboseli

African Safari: Kilimanjaro

Kilimanjaro

African Safari: Kilimanjaro

kilimanjaro

African Safari: Kilimanjaro

Kilimanjaro

Safari travel: Lodge in Serengeti

A lodge in Serengeti

Safari: Lodge in Serengeti

A lodge in Serengeti

Safari: Lodge in Serengeti

A lodge in Serengeti

Safari travel: Lodge in Serengeti

A lodge in Serengeti

African Safari: Lodge in Manyara

A lodge in Manyara

African Safari: Masai

Masai

African Safari: Masai dance

Masai dance

Safari: Masai

Safari travel: Masai school

Masai school

Safari: Masai

Masai

Safari: Masai

Safari: giraffes

Curious giraffes in Masai Mara

Safari: Glutton zebras

Glutton zebras in Masai Mara

Safari travel: On a truck from Cairo to Cape Town

On a truck from Cairo to Cape Town

Safari: balloon travel

In a balloon above Masai Mara

Safari travel: In a balloon above Masai Mara

In a balloon above Masai Mara

Safari: breakfast in the bush

Breakfast in bush

Safari: sheetah

A sheetah in Masai Mara

Safari: sheetah

A sheetah in Masai Mara

Safari

Like a cat in the middle of the road!

Safari: At the giraffes near Nairobi

At the giraffes near Nairobi

Safari: At the giraffes near Nairobi

At the giraffes near Nairobi

Safari: Naivasha

Bored

Safari: baby rhino

A baby rhino in Nakuru

Safari: Flamingoes

Flamingoes on the Nakuru lake

Safari: Flamingoes

Flamingoes on the Nakuru lake

Safari: Flamingoes

Flamingoes on the Nakuru lake

Safari: Flamingoes

Flamingoes on the Nakuru lake

Safari: The Ngorongoro crater

The crater Ngorongoro

Safari travel: Zebras in Ngorongoro

Zebras in Ngorongoro

African Safari: Hippopotamuses in Ngorongoro

Hippopotamuses in Ngorongoro

Africa safari: Zebras in Ngorongoro

Zebras in Ngorongoro

Safari: Ngorongoro

In the crater with the gang

Safari travel: Ngorongoro

Ngorongoro

Safari: zebras

Safari: An ostrich in Ngorongoro

An ostrich in Ngorongoro

Safari: A rhino in Ngorongoro

A rhino in Ngorongoro

Safari: A lion in Ngorongoro

Traffic jam or lion jam ?

Safari: A lion in Ngorongoro

Lion King !

African safari: the lion king

It is obvious, that is a lion jam!

Safari travel: A Ngorongoro lodge

A Ngorongoro lodge

Safari: A Ngorongoro lodge

A Ngorongoro lodge

Safari: A Ngorongoro lodge

A Ngorongoro lodge

Safari: Serengeti

Serengeti

Safari: Serengeti

Serengeti

Safari: Hippos in Serengeti

Hippos in Serengeti

Safari: Hippos in Serengeti

Hippos in Serengeti

Safari: Hippos in Serengeti

Hippos launched towards the water

Safari: There are hippos… under us!

There are hippos… under us!

Safari: Serengeti

la revedere, savana !

Până acum există "1 comentariu" la acest articol:

  1. Rob says:

    Incredible experience! A safari in Masai Mara is on my bucket list for sure! Also, I really enjoyed the photos you posted. Thanks for the good read! If you ever make it down to South Africa again, check out one of my top-3 safari lodges of Kruger National Park…. http://www.adventure-life.com/articles/south-africa-tours-and-safari-lodges-1098

    Cheers!
    Rob

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